ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Holtec Signs Agreement To Build Interim Spent Fuel Storage Facility In New Mexico.

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal  (4/30, Robinson-Avila) reports that Holtec International, which builds storage containers for spent nuclear fuel, “proposes to build the world’s first ‘interim’ depository” for nuclear waste in southeastern New Mexico. Holtec signed an agreement with the “Eddy-Lea County Energy Alliance to seek needed federal licenses to build the facility on 32 acres currently owned by the alliance.” Holtec senior exec Pierre Oneid says the company expects to invest around $80 million in the licensing process, and $200 million to build the first phase of the storage site, providing storage space for about 6 percent of the dry cask containers in the U.S. that now hold spent nuclear fuel. The “facility would expand as the volume of waste shipped to it grows, potentially providing enough space to equal all the planned storage capacity at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.”

Platts  (4/29, Hiruo) adds that the Holtec effort “has the support of New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, who informed Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz earlier in April that the counties have already selected a site that has been ‘vetted extensively.’” Platts adds that the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance is a “limited liability entity made up of Eddy and Lea counties and the towns of Carlsbad and Hobbs in those counties, respectively.” The site would be near the DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, which stores transuranic waste from the defense industry and Louisiana Energy Services’ Urenco USA uranium enrichment facility, located near Hobbs. In an April 10 letter to Moniz, Martinez wrote: “There is a strong pre-existing scientific and nuclear operations workforce in the area, and the dry, remote region is well-suited for an interim storage site.”

The AP  (4/30, Bryan) reports that officials from Lea and Eddy counties and Holtec International “gathered Wednesday at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque to outline their plans.” The AP adds that Holtec President and CEO Kris Singh “says the company expects to apply for a permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission within a year.”

Higher Education

West Virginia Engineering Student Takes Part In ASEE Workshop.

The Montgomery (WV) Herald  (4/30) profiles Amy Haddix, a WVU Tech chemical engineering student who represented her school at the American Society for Engineering Education “Insights from Tomorrow’s Engineers” workshop in Arlington, Virginia. The piece notes that 40 schools were represented by engineering students, and quotes Haddix saying, “Only a small percentage of engineering schools in the country were present at this conference. Being able to say that WVU Tech was represented brings a chance for others to hear about the school and all it can do.” The piece notes that the event was part of the “Transforming Undergraduate Education in Engineering” initiative, “which is designed to determine the types of qualities engineering graduates should possess in the modern engineering environment.”

Mitchell: Displaced Corinthian Students Who Relinquish Credits Will Have Debt Forgiven.

The AP  (4/30, Hefling) reports that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell said Wednesday that the 16,000 students who were displaced this week when Corinthian Colleges Inc. abruptly announced that it is closing its last 28 schools “will automatically have their federal student loans discharged — but only if they agree to forgo any credits they earned at the schools.” The AP reports that Mitchell said that ED “is bound by statute and regulation on how it handles such a case when a student’s school closes,” quoting him saying, “You can have the credits you paid for or you can relinquish the credits if you want the money back …. Students can have one or the other, but not both.” The AP describes the firm’s implosion and takes note of the predicament it leaves students in. The piece notes that Mitchell said that ED is “committed to reviewing the ‘defense to repayment’ claims” being made by displaced students, quoting him saying, “We want to make sure that borrowers who can successfully make their claims get their discharge.”

ED Faces Criticism For Steering Students Toward Other Troubled Schools. Inside Higher Ed  (4/29) reports that ED is “teaming up” with institutions across the country to help keep the displaced Corinthian students “on track toward completing college,” noting that the students are stuck with “attempting to transfer their credits to another institution or dropping their academic pursuits.” Colleges are working to recruit the students, and ED is working to facilitate the process. The piece notes that ED has published a list of possible colleges for transfers, but reports that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) criticized the list for including “other for-profit colleges that have been under investigation either by state attorneys general or federal agencies.”

California Assembly Panel Passes Bill For New UC STEM Campus.

The Contra Costa (CA) Times  (4/30, Murphy) reports that the California state Assembly Higher Education Committee has passed a bill to spend $50 million to begin construction on an 11th University of California campus. Sponsor Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D) sees the new school as “being akin to the private California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and specializing in science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.”

Senate Finance Mulls Bill To Expand 529 Accounts.

The Hill  (4/29, Becker) reports that the Senate Finance Committee began deliberating over a bill to “expand tax-free accounts for college education and make them easier to use.” Action on the bill comes “just months after the White House proposed paring back the so-called 529 accounts.” The article describes some partisan wrangling over the bill, despite its having been sponsored by members of both parties, and explains that it would give students “more freedom to use the accounts to purchase computers or Internet access.”

The AP  (4/30, Ohlemacher) reports that the Senate Finance Committee voted 26-0 to send a bill to expand the 529 tax-free college savings plan to the full Senate. The legislation, identical to that which already passed the House, would “let students use money from college savings accounts to buy computers and other technology, something they cannot do now with tax-free distributions from the accounts.”

ASEE Member Named Founding Dean of New School
Louisiana Tech’s Jenna Carpenter will be the dean of the new school of engineering at Campbell University.

ASEE Perks
Learn about the broad collection of benefits available to ASEE members.

Research and Development

Texas Senate Moves To Create University Research Initiative.

The Dallas Morning News  (4/29) reports that the Texas state Senate has approved a bill to dismantle “the scandal-plagued Emergency Technology Fund and transferring its remaining assets to the state’s incentive program for new businesses and a new university research effort.” Under the plan, the state would use $45 million “to create the Governor’s University Research Initiative, aimed at recruiting top science and engineering researchers to join the faculties at various Texas universities.”

Engineering and Public Policy

McConnell Warns He Will Keep Senate From Signing Off On Obama’s Emissions Pledges.

Reuters  (4/30, Gardner) reports that Senate Majority Mitch McConnell on Wednesday cautioned nations negotiating with the President on a global plan to cut carbon emissions to understand that Obama cannot enact them without Congressional support. McConnell said that while he is in charge of the Senate, “this body is not going to be signing off on any back door energy tax.” He added, “The failure of Congress to sign off should signal to other countries they should proceed with caution into the December 2015 climate talks in Paris.”

Brown Orders More Stringent Emissions Cuts. The New York Times  (4/30, Nagourney, Subscription Publication) reports that on Wednesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) issued an executive order “sharply speeding up” his state’s “already ambitious” efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The new order “was intended as a jolt to a landmark 2006 environmental law requiring an 80 percent cut in greenhouse gas reductions by 2050, compared with 1990.” The Times says that under Brown’s order, “the state would have to get halfway there — a 40 percent reduction — by 2030.”

House Committee Approves Bill Aimed At Delaying, Weakening EPA Climate Rule.

The Hill  (4/30, Cama) reports the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday voted “to delay the Obama administration’s landmark climate rule for power plants and let states opt out of complying with it.” The Rep. Ed Whitfield-sponsored bill “represents House Republicans’ first attempt to directly target and change the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) climate rule, proposed last June.” The committee “voted 28-23 to send the bill to the full House for a vote.” Whitfield “said the legislation responds to various concerns about the EPA’s rule brought forth by states, utilities, experts and other stakeholders.”

The Washington Examiner  (4/30, Siciliano) reports the legislation “would allow governors to opt out of the EPA’s emissions requirements if they can show the rules will increase rates for consumers and harm the flow of electricity.” In addition, the bill “would delay compliance with the rules until all litigation has been reviewed by the courts.”

Brown Orders More Stringent Emissions Cuts In California.

The New York Times  (4/30, Nagourney, Subscription Publication) reports that on Wednesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) issued an executive order “sharply ramping up” his state’s “already ambitious” efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under the new order, by 2030, “emission levels will have to be reduced by 40 percent compared with 1990.” That’s a change from the previous law, which required emissions to be “cut 80 percent from what they were in 1990 by 2050.” Brown “said that he wanted California to set an example for the rest of the country and the world.”

The Los Angeles Times  (4/30, Megerian, Finnegan) reports that at a climate change conference yesterday Brown said, “I’ve set a very high bar, but it’s a bar we must meet. … It’s a bar not only for California, but it’s a goal for other states, for the United States as a whole, and for other nations around the world.” Brown “urged politicians to keep battling climate change even though the issue can seem ‘a bit remote and abstract.’” And he criticized congressional Republicans “who have doubted whether the threat is real, including one who brought a snowball to the floor of the U.S. Senate to argue the world isn’t getting warmer.”

The “GovBeat” blog of the Washington Post  (4/30, Wilson) notes that Brown’s “order will incorporate planning for the impacts of climate change into California’s long-term infrastructure and financial planning.” In addition, it “orders state agencies with jurisdiction over sources of greenhouse gas emissions to limit those emissions to hit the new targets.”

Bloomberg News  (4/30, Marois) reports Brown’s “proposals have raised concerns from the oil and natural gas industry, manufacturers and Republicans, who warn the policies will raise energy prices and drive business to less-expensive regions.”

The Hill  (4/29, Henry) and Reuters  (4/30, Carroll) also provide coverage of this story.

Rand Paul Introduces Bill To Block Net Neutrality Rules.

Reuters  (4/30, Selyukh) reports that on Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul, a GOP presidential candidate, introduced a bill to block the FCC’s net neutrality rules, which are set to take effect in June. Paul said in a statement, “The Internet has successfully flourished without the heavy hand of government interference. Stated simply, I do not want to see the government regulating the Internet.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

ED Takes Illinois To Task Over Science Assessments.

The Chicago Tribune  (4/29, Rado, Perez) reports that ED has sent a “stern letter” to Illinois education officials telling them that failing to give statewide science tests this year is against the law, and telling the state Board of Education that it has been “placed in what the federal agency calls ‘high-risk status’ for not complying with testing requirements.” The piece explains that the BOE “planned to do some pilot testing of new science assessments this school year” instead of administering statewide testing, and proceeded without ED approval.

California College To Host STEM Program For High School Students.

The Santa Clarita Valley (CA) News  (4/29) reports that College of the Canyons in California will work with GEAR UP and STAR Education to host a high school activities day which college program coordinator for astronomy & physical science Teresa Ciardi says hopes to “inspire these students to pursue college degrees and careers in STEM.” The program targets students that have a history of poverty and did not have family members attend college. Students from four high schools will visit the college Friday.

Mississippi Class Wins Samsung Resolve For Tomorrow Contest With Pipe-Cleaning Robot.

McClatchy  (4/29, Zhang) reports that a sixth grade class in Picayune, Mississippi built a robot to clean public drains has received a $140,000 award as part of the 2015 Samsung Resolve For Tomorrow Contest. The town helped fund the robot, which is to be used by municipal officials, and local high schoolers and NASA webinars helped the team learn STEM skills.

STEM Robot Toys Selling Fast.

The Denver Post  (4/30, Chuang) reports that orders for Modular Robotics’ robot kits, which are considered STEM toys, have resulted in enormous production growth for the company. Toys that teach STEM skills are noted to be very popular at the moment. The article then gives background on Modular Robotics and details the kits the company sells.

Arizona District Facing Investigation Over Special Education Curriculum.

KNXV-TV  Phoenix (4/30) reports that civil rights attorney Mary Lou Mobley is investigating Arizona’s Paradise Valley School District over complaints from a number of parents over the district’s decision to stop teaching science and history “to special education students because of a new school model.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Moniz Attends Senate Hearing On QER.
Corinthian Students Ponder Future After Closure.
Decreased Funding For Basic Science Research Leaves US In “Innovation Deficit.”
SNL To Test Deep-hole Nuclear Waste Disposal Technique.
Boeing Infrastructure Director Asserts Data Center Modernization Results In Shift To Cloud.
DOE Pledges $75 Million Renewal Of LBNL’s JCAP.
Initiative To Recruit Low-Income, Minority Students To AP And IB Classes To Spend $100 Million.

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